The Programmer Dress Code

The second part of this post is up, so after you finish reading, check it out!

I really want to know what it is about programming, or computers in general, that makes people want to grow a beard, have long hair, and dress like a slob. I can say these things without guilt because while I do not have long hair, I do have a beard and I do in fact dress like a slob. Not horribly sloppy or anything. I am actually pretty fanatical about hygiene, I just am not big on tucking my shirt in or ironing it or shaving. So who was the guy that started the unkempt programmer code of honor?

Was it this guy?

Edsger Dijkstra

Edsger Dijkstra (most know for Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm) Here we see him in a suit and tie, but hey, he was born in 1930. All people wore a suit and tie back then, even women and children.

Or how about this guy?


Alan Kay – Doesn’t he look like a sad Burt Reynolds? Stop laughing! This is one of the fathers of object oriented programming. All hail! He does have the mop and a nice ‘stache going on though.

What about this one?

Bjarne Stroustrup

Bjarne Stroustrup – I would say that this looks like the kind of guy I would expect to see on a "wanted poster" somewhere, but this guy brought us C++! I couldn’t talk trash about a guy who made C++.

And this one?

Charles W. Bachman

Charles Bachman – Nothing unkempt about this guy, except that hat! Damn son! He had a hand in early database technology and won the Turing award for his work.

The list keeps going…


Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson – Are we programming here or going to a Hell’s Angels meeting? But seriously though, being that I am a Microsoft programmer I’m not sure that I am supposed to like these guys. Dennis was the original developer of C and one of the core developers on UNIX while Ken was the man responsible for UNIX and the fact that I don’t have to pay 8000 dollars for a copy of Windows since MS has some competition now. But seriously, these guys are gods.

One of my personal favorites…

 John McCarthy

John McCarthy – Long lost relative of Colonel Sanders and the original designer of the Lisp programming language. This guy had some serious programming cojones. He even predicted in 1961 that one day computer processing would be sold like a utility. That is the kind of prediction that makes Nostradamus look like a sissy. Again, not too terribly unkempt, but that crazy hair and beard mixed with the suit says "serious by day, party animal by night."

The A-list celeb:


Donald Knuth – If I have to explain what this guy did for computer science, then you need to stop reading this and go to the book store. Again, not an unkempt guy, but nothing says "Computer Programming God" like flannel. You really have to wonder where his beard or mustache is though. He is a real computer scientist, isn’t he?


Martin Fowler

Martin Fowler – I’m not sure he should be in the list with some of these other guys, but he is a personal hero of mine, and man this picture is great. I could not have asked for a better example of this article if I had requested a picture from him. He has written quite a few books, of which Refactoring and Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture are my favorites.

And the freedom fighter…


Richard Stallman – Like him or hate him, he is a seriously influential person in the computer world, and again he looks like he’d fit in better at a wood chopping competition than at MIT, but who am I to judge? The man is the founder of GNU, need I say more?

And the fruit…


Steve Wozniak – What is a list of crazy computer people without Woz? He co-founded Apple (duh) and is the poster-boy for hippie style programming.

This one is a gem…

 Yukihiro Matsumoto

Yukihiro Matsumoto – I just threw this one in for the search engines. Just kidding! This the man that brought us Ruby and proves that even in the land of the rising sun, programmers still need beards. Or at least a five o’clock shadow.

By popular demand…


Larry Wall – This guy brought us Perl and sports a nice mustache and hair that would make Fabio jealous.

And I can’t believe I left off this one…


Alan Cox – Holy crap. Alan Cox and Richard Stallman must have been long lost brothers. This guy was one of the earliest developers on the linux kernel and apparently has not shaved since he started.

The programming santa…

James Gosling

James Gosling – This guy brought us Java and is wearing a shirt with the java mascot playing an electric guitar. I have nothing else to say. I think I am out of smart-ass comments.

He’s a cold hearted snake…

Guido van Rossum

Guido Van Rossum – This guy brought us Python and he is seen here without his beard, but he has an afro that would make Snoop Dog smile.

I know I said Fabio before, but wow…

Grady Booch

Grady Booch – This guy does commercials for Herbal Essences shampoo and in his spare time he invented UML. Oh, and he wrote a little book called Object Oriented Analysis and Design, you may have heard of it. :-)

And saving the best for last…


Justin Etheredge – How’d that tool get in there? His picture doesn’t deserve to be in the same folder as these guys, much less in a list with them! Bah!

So there you have it, my totally incomplete list of bearded, long haired, casually dressed visionaries. Except that last one. Sorry, but I’m not sure how that last one got in there. Now what other field (except maybe physics) would accept these people, much less make them their idols. Got any other great pictures of any computer scientists/software engineers? Let us know in the comments.

Also, this list is clearly in jest, if you are offended by having your picture on here then please let me know and I will take it down. Just send the request in writing to me with a signed copy of your book/source/picture and a personal letter of recommendation. I will then dance because you have fallen victim to my trap.

And one final note, I can’t believe you guys read this crap. :-) All this technology and what do we use it for? To make fun of the visionaries of our time. Man I love these here internets.

If you enjoyed it, go read part two!

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  1. @lj I think you might be reading a bit too much into this post. It is merely a joke and I mean no disrespect to any of these people. I posted this while wondering myself about why I have such a hard time caring about my appearance. If it wasn’t for my wife I might never cut my hair. And I am also by no means saying that I am like these people in this list, these people are giants of our field and I just hope to introduce them to a few more people.

  2. dude, McCarthy is a pimp.

  3. Nice post :D Well i don’t get why they don’t shave.. it looks ugly

  4. I’ve been programming since 1970 (three-piece suits) to now (blue jeans and tennis shoes). Programmers dress "casually" now because they are allowed to.

    I wonder, though, if putting a well-dressed person in a ghetto — and given enough(subjective) time — that person would eventually act to match the surroundings. Also, if a race or nationality sees its members being arrested on TV, does that make it so that more eventually get arrested? What do you think?

  5. You have just like >>completely<< forgot about one obvious example :D

  6. And let’s not forget this
    <a href=""&gt;
    bearded and hatted luminary from Computer Aided Design</a>!

  7. If we’re talking about real computer scientists — e.g. Goedel, Turing, von Neumann — those guys were all sharp dressers.

  8. Women who want to be respected in this space, though, ought not to be excessively fashionable. If you spend $300 on high heels, that’s 3 processor upgrades that you’ve skipped. OK – so that’s overstating the point, but if you’re dressed to the nines at work, we’re going to think you’re too chic to do real work.

  9. That was cool man, keep on good work.

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  11. Chanced upon this post. Very nicely crafted. Very readable and amusing. Just realised I had never seen a pic of Guido Van Rossum before.
    Thanks — Shourya

  12. it’s cool that you included Wozniak he rulz

  13. Excellent post and topic. On a serious note I feel like I actually do get more respect with a beard than without it.

  14. Damn, I fit in neither of these stereotypes…

  15. No people of color, no women. This list is offensive and should be removed, and the writer given a course of sensitivity training.

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  18. Great humor. I should be embarrassed; never saw these people’s picture before.

  19. Ha-ha! Nice list!

    But I prefer to keep looking after my appearance :-P

  20. Where are Russian programmers gone? :)

  21. Nice list though! Hope the person in the last picture will invent something that will mark the programmer history!

  22. Hey,

    I was quite inspired by this post. In fact it inspired me to ask a question on Stackoverflow:

  23. Ah…somebody closed and deleted it. 64 views though…that’s a pitty, I would have liked to see the results of that.

  24. Ben Forta, Senior Technical Evangelist for Adobe Systems

    Ben’s a celebrity in the coldfusion community :)

  25. Here is a question… As the future wife of a geek who shaves his head so that he doesn’t have to leave his pc to cut it, doesn’t tuck his shirts obviously… WHAT IS THE ANTIDOTE? How can we – women of geeks – help you look better? You’re cool, we get it… but when it’s your engagement night PLEASE MAKE THE EFFORT!!!

  26. lolz.. this is very creative blog post.. what about you, how you dress ?

  27. A lot of hair in face….

  28. <img src=""&gt;

    I can’t believe you missed out the founder of Wikipedia. Don’t we all owe Wikipedia a big thank you for all it has taught us ? ;) Jimmy is not as unkempt as e.g. Alan Cox but still there’s the moustache,the unruly hair, and the `codethinked` look.

  29. Yes, you are definitely missing Eric Raymond.

  30. <– you missed this guy.

    kidding ;)

  31. There is no relation between looking sloppy and programming acumen. Get that out of your head.

  32. [quote]Women who want to be respected in this space, though, ought not to be excessively fashionable.[/quote]

    No, that’s the opposite of how it works in reality. Women are judged extremely harshly (both by men and other women) for looking "sloppy" at work, and men aren’t, so women are less likely to be doing that.

  33. I just couldn’t stop laughing…. we programmers are just weird…. lol

  34. This post makes me laughing! thank you! :lol:

  35. Dan Van Der Werken

    What about us girly-men who can’t grow beards but still want to be good programmers?!! You bastich!

  36. I’ve always worried that not fitting the stereotype, not being quite nerdy enough or unkempt enough, is an indication that my programming skills are lacking. I keep accidentally tucking in my only Hawaiian shirt!

  37. Woz can play John Denver in the biopic, and Booch can play George Carlin. If there was a famous Mennonite, Justin could play him…

  38. Hehehe, these are people who created a Hell on Earth for we programmers. I lyk these guys

  39. Not a programmer in the least bit, but I can definitely respect and appreciate the work that has been done for guys like me :-))

  40. You don’t have to look pretty when you’re the only one in the room who knows how to fix everything. :)

  41. You don’t have to look pretty when you’re the only one in the room who knows how to fix everything. :)

  42. Great post.Enjoyed thoroughly,viewing the photos of such great people,whose name we have,heard/learned from the first day of our programming life,but never knew how they looked like.

  43. Hi Justin ! I love this blog post a friend just shared it with me. I am married to a computer programmer, and I help him with what to wear but he is adorable anyway. he has long hair and dresses casual :-) when we pick out clothes to wear he tells me that ” it all has to match” as he won”t know what to choose” hehe :-)
    Anyway you have nice eyes and smile, and if you like having a beard keep it , the trick is not to let it get too straggly ;)

  44. notorvalds no fun

    No programmer’s list is full without Torvalds. I mean…c’mon!

  45. Leaving off Linus Torvalds completely obsoletes this list :)

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